POLS ON THE STREET: Krasner vs. FOP Could Heat up 2020

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PHILADELPHIA District Attorney Larry Krasner

That the Fraternal Order of Police and District Attorney Larry Krasner do not always see eye to eye has been apparent since the day Krasner launched his run for office in 2016.

Coming up now is 2020, time for him to launch his run for re-election. But the currents of conflict that were gentle ripples back then, when Krasner was merely one of five candidates to replace disgraced DA Seth Williams, are a stormy torrent today.

Krasner’s career as a defending attorney trained him to view police testimony with skepticism, occasionally arising to outrage. While he made all the right overtures to the FOP after his election, they were coolly received by line police. And Krasner’s core progressive convictions have regularly sucked him into cases where he would either be hammered by the police for not going the extra mile with them – as with the West Philly shooter whom he did not quite throw the book at – or hammered by his allies for not being exculpatory enough for bad guys – as when he initially flinched from Mumia Abu Jamal’s latest appeal on death row.

2019 PUBLIC SERVANT of the Year Councilmember Cherelle Parker was cherished by a throng at the award ceremony on Nov. 21 – but none were prouder of her than her fellow Delta Sigma Thetas, who danced and sang around her. Photo by Wendell Douglas

So Krasner enters 2020 knowing that trying to meet the FOP halfway will get him nowhere in his re-election bid. His main path to defeat lies in dissing his voters on the left.

How can the FOP win in this struggle? Evidently not by filing legal action.

The Court of Common Pleas has issued an opinion in support of its Aug. 21 ruling rejecting claims by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 that the District Attorney’s Office violated FOP members’ constitutional rights by disclosing relevant and material information about police misconduct to defendants.

The FOP appealed after the court dismissed with prejudice its lawsuit against District Attorney Larry Krasner and the City of Philadelphia. The District Attorney’s actions fall “well within D.A. Krasner’s official capacities in carrying out his duties as Philadelphia District Attorney,” ruled the court.

HANDING OUT hundreds of turkeys to constituents at Myers Rec Center in Kingsessing, State Rep. Joanna McClinton posed with a glad constituent who will enjoy a fine Thanksgiving feast. Across Philadelphia, other civic leaders did their best to ensure that all families will celebrate the day in style. Other Thanksgiving coverage P. 2. Photo by Wendell Douglas

District Attorney Krasner chided FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby for “continuing to waste members’ dues on frivolous, costly, and politically motivated litigation.” It is unlikely that either McNesby or his members will regret that expense. But it is a practical fact that for a cop to try to take a DA down by litigation is kind of like a DA trying to take a cop down by a stop-and-frisk. Effective agents in public life rely on their professional specialties, not their weak points.

When then are the strengths of the FOP? They are chiefly political: They lie in organization, funding and goodwill – three things the defendants’ side tends to lack in elections.

Krasner won in 2017 because he ran as the one candidate for revolutionary change in a primary field with four other moderately liberal, “tough but fair” candidates. He got a boost from out-of-town billionaire George Soros but it is also fair to note that Krasner caught the edge of a wave in the politics of urban crime.

51ST WARD LEADER Gregory Benjamin convened a public meeting on gentrification in W. and S.W. Philadelphia. The Kingsessing Free Library was packed with 100 people, which was professionally moderated. Neighbors discussed their concerns about rising property values as well as the positive aspects of gentrification. The community was interested in preserving economic diversity in their neighborhoods.

Insiders are now sizing up the 2020 chessboard for DA. Nobody wants to take a public position this early. But a common thought is that Krasner is beatable – but only by a single opponent.

That opponent would have to be groomed and vetted ASAP. And the grooming and vetting would need an undisputed leader: someone who wouldn’t be the actual candidate but would sponsor them, line up broad-spectrum support for them, have avenues to major funders – and the clout to muscle out a fistful of other wannabes that will inevitably dip their toes into the water.

Who would that leader be? In palmier days, that task would have fallen on Democratic City Committee Chair Bob Brady. But after retiring from Congress, it’s doubtful he would want to wade into that knife fight on either side. How could it help the party? Crime is not the issue it once was; education is bigger now.

So it would have to be someone else. Otherwise, Krasner walks home. And maybe he should.

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